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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

The coast will be clear

Scuba Dogs Society Executive Director Karem Pérez González provides logistical details on the International Coastal Cleanup, which will take place this Saturday on beaches, rivers and lakes throughout Puerto Rico. (Photo by Richard Gutiérrez/The San Juan Daily Star)

Scuba Dogs Society prepares for Saturday’s annual cleanup of island beaches & waterways

By Richard Gutiérrez

Puerto Rico is considered perhaps one of the most beautiful islands in the world, its beaches being one of its most impressive scenic assets and places for residents and visitors alike to relax and luxuriate. However, if the beaches aren’t kept clean, they won’t look as beautiful as they should and could have a detrimental effect on aquatic life beyond the island.

While it is the responsibility of beach maintenance personnel and visitors to keep the area clean, sometimes setting out trash cans just isn’t enough to keep the beaches entirely clean. That is why nonprofit organizations set up beach cleanups in which many people join together in order to get rid of all the misplaced trash.

On Monday, the nonprofit organization Scuba Dogs Society (SDS) held a press conference where they provided all the details about their plans for the annual coast cleanup. The event, which is to take place this weekend, goes beyond just Puerto Rico as more than 100 countries will join the cause in the International Coast Cleanup (ICC).

“Scuba Dogs Society is an organization that has been educating about and protecting natural spaces,” SDS Executive Director Karem Pérez González told the STAR. “We have been holding the ICC for 21 years. This event’s main purpose is to educate and gather as much trash as possible from many parts of the island, and while doing so, gather data about what we’re finding in these spaces.”

Now this can’t happen if nobody actually comes to the cleanup, which is why the SDS recruits volunteers to help out. Volunteers are assigned to different parts of the island so that simultaneously on that same day, multiple parts of the island are cleaned up.

“We train our volunteers and call them captains; they are the representatives of the organization in these specific areas,” Pérez González said. “They are provided with a kit that has many materials to be used during the cleanup. The kit has trash bags, gloves, etc.”

“All other volunteers who are added [to a given area’s cleanup crew] are led by the captains,” she noted. “Many of the captains have been with us for many years and participate in the cleanup annually, but we always have new captains because many people participate in other events and so they become enthusiastic and end up working with us as well.”

The SDS’s goal was to recruit about 150 captains this year, and as of Monday they had 175 captains on board, well over their goal. The organization has not only been successful at recruiting people in the past, but also at cleaning up the beaches.

“In all the years we’ve been doing the cleanups, we have removed over 30 million pounds of trash, and last year we removed around 40.3 tons of trash from 117 coasts,” Pérez González told the STAR. “This year we surpassed the amount of places where we’ll have a presence. We’re going to be in 176 different places, such as the ‘San Cristóbal Cannon,’ due to the fact that we want to be able to be in other places that aren’t the coast, which is one of our four goals this year. We want to visit rivers, reservoirs and forests because a lot of the time these items [of debris] find their way to the ocean through a river or stream.”

“Los Machos Beach will also be one of our points of interest, along with Hacienda la Esperanza nature reserve, and Escambrón Beach, among many other places,” she said.

The cleanup will take place this Saturday, Sept. 16 and aims to encourage everyone to have a better understanding of the importance and well-being of the island by educating themselves about environmental and conservation issues. The campaign this year is especially directed toward young people, as the SDS wants to motivate the younger generations to properly take care of the environment.

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